Before the December Break, medieval Scotland and 21st century Morocco collided in Dr. Susan Martin’s 12th grade English Language Arts class.
Dr. Martin inspired her students to reimagine the themes and characters in the play they were studying, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, into present-day Morocco. The language and the situations they used needed to fit both the original play and the modern setting.
The students connected with the universal themes in the play around ambition and power. Before they imagined their present-day scenarios, they picked a theme or a statement from the play that resonated with them and conducted social media research to see how their peers reacted to it. The students conducted surveys asking their classmates to agree or disagree with statements such as:
- When you want something, you must do whatever is necessary to achieve or acquire it. The ends always justify the means.
- Loyalty must know no limits. It must be honored, no matter what.
- Power corrupts. End of story.
- It is better to be feared than loved if you are to lead.
Once they had collected and analyzed their survey data, the students presented their results to the class. This led to interesting and insightful class discussions around the ideas in the play.
The students then divided into groups to rewrite a scene from Macbeth using a 21st century Moroccan setting. Many of the groups chose a high-stakes business deal where the themes of ambition and power could be realized. Another group chose to focus on the competition and pressure that professional soccer teams face in Morocco. Each student took on the role of a character from Macbeth in their reimagined scenario. The students wrote their new scripts as a group and then acted out their scenes in front of their classmates, other GWA teachers, and administrators.
Throughout this assignment, the students worked on their writing and rhetorical skills as well as their presentation skills. It was a challenge to transpose Shakespeare’s English to language appropriate to the new, modern-day settings!
The students also used technology and analytical skills when conducting their surveys. A further use of technology came after they finished performing their scenes when each student filmed a reflective video blog, or vlog, in which they stepped out of character to comment on the character development process and give themselves a post-performance evaluation.
The themes in Macbeth resonated with Dr. Martin’s students and proved to be as relevant today as they were in Shakespeare’s time.